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Quantitative and Qualitative research :
Which one to prefer?

Market research 04 12
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Research is a great way of gathering data and information to enhance understanding about a variety of issues and ideas. It is imperative to know the kind of research to go for, in order to satisfy a purpose and obtain valuable data in the most convenient manner. While deciding the research type, one also needs to consider how this selection will impact analysis and contribute by providing input to make informed decisions. A research methodology may be easy to conduct but may not generate sufficient key insights or may not be feasible in terms of time, effort and resource investment but may be easy to evaluate and conclude. There should be a certain balance between the conduction and conclusion aspect of research, to pick the correct choice.

The two broad categories of research are quantitative and qualitative research.

Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics to describe test and draw conclusions about variables. Such a data can be mathematically and statistically analyzed. It is also viable to present such type of research data in the form of charts and graphs for enhanced understanding. This type of research mainly focuses on testing relationships and hypothesis by gathering maximum information to make a meaningful conclusion. Examples of such type of research include observations, closed-ended type questions in surveys and experimental data.

Qualitative research, on the other hand, focuses on descriptive and text-based data to make observations, understand ideas and concepts, gather insights and social perceptions. It is aimed at grasping how people view things around them using an unstructured and unrestricting method of research that allows people to elaborate their viewpoints. Unlike quantitative research, qualitative research is not focused on hard numbers and figures and is analyzed using text based analysis tools. Examples of qualitative research are open-ended questions, interviews, group discussions, video and audio recordings among others

Qualitative and Quantitative Research



Number and figure based

Text based

Tests relationship and hypothesis

It is used for making observations and enhancing conceptual understanding

Analyzed using statistical and data analysis tools 

Evaluated by using summarizing techniques and text based analysis 

Researched using closed-ended questions 

Researched using open-ended questions

Presented using graphs, charts and diagrams 

Techniques such as Word cloud helps in capturing and presenting key insights

Requires large number of participants 

Limited number of participants are needed

Objective in nature 

Subjective in nature 

Language based reporting 

Statistical reporting 

Example: interviews and focus groups

Example: Structured questions and observations



Qualitative research

Qualitative research is conducted using focus groups, in-depth interviews, ethnography, documents, reviews and open-ended survey questions. All of these methods allow participants to elaborate and clarify their opinions and thoughts as well as study behavior in specific circumstances. Though it may seem a cumbersome process, collecting qualitative data helps in understand respondent mindset and making assumptions and observations based on authentic information. 

Focus groups: Discussions between participants with relevant knowledge base to gather holistic data on the research topic.

Interviews: One to one dialogue to gather point of views and respondent’s thoughts about products, ideas and concepts.

Open-ended survey questions: Unstructured questions meant to gather feedback and respondent’s unrestricted opinion.

Documents: Second hand information on research topics to grasp topics using sourced data.

Ethnography: An observation style based research involving participation in a community to note behavior and activities

Reviews: Studying and reviewing written pieces  

Quantitative research

Quantitative research is gathered using closed-ended questions, observations, experiments and different survey methods. These research methods mainly focus on bringing cause and effect relation as well as proving the validity of hypothesis by gathering input to support or deny the same.

Closed-ended questions: Questions with limited answer options to assist categorizing and analyzing.

Observations: Observing and noting numeric variables like temperature.

Experiments: Establishing correlation between variables through controlled conditioning.

Telephonic surveys: Gathering structures data through telephonic conversation.

Polls: Polling questions and statements to assess agreement, rating and choice.

Qualitative and Quantitative Research3

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Qualitative research

Texts and language used in qualitative research is highly variable and cannot be uniformly understood. Text based summarizing and interpretation techniques are used to highlight key areas.

Thematic analysis: A latent approach that tries to uncover the underlying meaning behind written information by following a series of steps that involve understanding, highlighting, assigning themes and codes and finally writing up the takeaways from the gathered qualitative information as a whole by supporting each of these takeaways using phrases and texts from the first-hand data. It also tries to establish whether or not the purpose of the research has been satisfied based on the data collected.

Word cloud: Word cloud is a summarizing tool used for overviewing the key words that texts contain. This usually promotes a follow up discussion on reasons that lead to the use of a word or phrase in relevance to the research topic.

Discourse analysis: Understanding communication, linguistics and structure of qualitative data. This technique studies speech, sentence structures, conversational indicators and frame of references to understand how people interact in a social setting.

Quantitative research

Quantitative research is based on facts and figures and so, it becomes relatively easier to make sense out of it using data and statistical analysis tools. These tools can be used to summarize and understand nature of relationship between variables. The analysis results describe the data using certain mathematical concepts that can easily be applied due to the structured nature of the data collection process. Descriptive analysis provides holistic and concise figures which combine results from individual responses to provide an overall picture of the collected responses. 

Such a statistical summary can then be presented in the form of graphs, pie charts, bar diagrams, line charts and other forms of data representation method which makes it easy to comprehend. Such statistical summaries can then be used to validate or invalidate hypothesis. This gives a more realistic and reliable approach for testing theories.

Qualitative and Quantitative Research2
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Qualitative research

  • Highly varied and complex data makes it difficult to analyze as compared to quantitative data 
  • It becomes difficult to assess reliability and validity given the lack of rigidity in answering
  • Respondents may not be clear and elaborative in expressing themselves completely and so researchers may sometimes have to follow up to increase their understanding on particular answers.
  • It requires a lot of time and money to hire professionals and conduct in-depth interviews.

Quantitative research

  • Structured nature of the research limits answer choices
  • Analysis of quantitative research requires expertise to decide the right kind of tool and conduct the process properly to generate meaningful results.
  • Does not allow researcher to gather insights and study behavior.
  • Requires large number responses to make the study substantive which requires a lot of resource investment.


Qualitative and Quantitative Research1



Qualitative research

  • Aids understanding of participant mindset and reasoning
  • Elaborative and unrestricted
  • Establishes observations and enhances relationship understanding between variables
  • Assists in gathering feedback for identifying gaps and positives.
  • Narrative nature of the research makes the study and its results more authentic

Quantitative research

  • Minimizes chances of ambiguities and confusion
  • Relatively accurate 
  • Easy to analyze using systematic tools
  • Proves theories based on supportive information
  • Easy to present and convey to third parties 
  • Easy to summarize, categorize and interpret due to pre-defined structure.

The researcher has to carefully consider the purpose, resource availability and decisions to be made before going ahead with a particular research method. Researchers looking to make observations and establish theories should go for a qualitative approach, while testing and proving these theories is more feasible using a quantitative approach.

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